Raffi Shahinian - Guitar
Drew Gingell - Drums
Ryan Brown - Bass/Vocals
Ischa - Vocals
Uncle Scam is a band with a lot to say—not just lyrically, but conversationally as well. Within just a few minutes they talked about cocaine, metal (both as an alloy and a genre), Freddie Mercury, sex and Zoroastrianism. Raffi Shahinian, Drew Gingell, Ryan Brown and Ischa are random, diverse and articulate—much like their songs.
Redneck Funeral, the band’s recent release, has elements of funk, rock and metal, but the band has a few ideas about how to describe their sound. Gingell says, “We’re definitely rock music, and a lot of our songs talk about sex or politics. I’d call us political-sex-rock.” Brown says they are funky-sex-rock. Shahinian digests these ideas and says, “We’re sexy-funky-poli-rock.” Heads nod all around the table. That works.
Shahinian and Gingell began jamming guitar and drums together in 1994. They started Uncle Scam and the Current Administration in 2005, but according to Shahinian the real Uncle Scam didn’t come together until November 2009 when Ischa joined the band. Ischa says, “To be fair, back then it was called ‘Uncle Scam and the Current Administration,’ but now it’s just called ‘Uncle Scam’ because you’ve found your PRESIDENT.” Before Ischa, they had members coming and going. But they realized that with Ischa they had a fresh start.
Uncle Scam has influences across the spectrum, from Annie Lennox to Clutch to Scars on Broadway. But when asked about what they are listening to, across the board the band says “Uncle Scam.” No, not because they are completely self-absorbed, but because they record every one of their band practices in Cool Edit Pro, and then make sure each member leaves with a burned copy of that night’s rehearsal. This disciplined work ethic has led to an absolute wealth of material for the band to draw from live, as well as a lot of opportunities to record.
Earlier this year the band hooked up with Bruce Kirby at Boho Digitalia to record Redneck Funeral. Throughout the album, Ischa sings, speaks and squeals about different societal issues that stick out to the band. Ischa says, “I think that we’re more of a commentary ... like we’re saying, ‘This is the way the world is, huh? What do you think about that?’” While they do appreciate living in America, they express concern about a society that they feel undervalues non-straight, non-Caucasian non-Christians. Shahinian says the band isn’t aiming to become the next Rage Against the Machine, but is more interested in presenting the contradictions that exist in our country.
You can see the band playing around town at some of their favorite venues, like Five Monkeys, Bar Deluxe and Club Vegas, as well as at good old-fashioned house shows. Uncle Scam enjoys playing with a variety of other bands, such as Funk Fu and 60 Watt, but also enjoys implementing non-traditional elements into the evening—like having belly dancers perform. Ischa says, “I would love for us to have shows where we have a comedian who comes in and does a 20 minute set. We like the idea of mixing up the night a little bit, and if we can, we want to give other people the opportunity to put their art out there.”
The band enjoys working with themes at their shows, like camouflage, matching colors and glam, a concept that was spearheaded by Ischa when she joined the band. Brown feels like this gives something visually tantalizing for the audience to connect with. Shahinian says, “Let’s face it, we’re there to entertain people. It’s a show.”
In reference to the Salt Lake scene in general, Uncle Scam wants to network and connect with other bands in the valley, even if it’s just to set up a show in the park or collaborate on some projects. The band just wants to play shows and fortify the musical arena in which we live. The members of Uncle Scam are great examples of not taking themselves too seriously while taking what they do very seriously, and they are sure to have some fun in the process. Keep up with Uncle Scam on Facebook, and at unclescamrocks.com, where you can purchase their album and download some free music.
Be at Urban Lounge on Nov 12th for Marinade, Uncle Scam and openers The Vision. You can call it Girl Power Night, but you’d be smarter to simply call it Great Music Night. As always, just $5.